AP: Bennett Emails May Violate Election, Ethics Laws
By Mike Perleberg
Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett resigns from his position during a Thursday, August 1 press conference in Tallahassee.
AP Photo/Steve Cannon
(Indianapolis, Ind.) – There may be more trouble for former Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett.
The Associated Press reports that Bennett may have been using state resources for his failed 2012 re-election campaign. The report says Bennett kept multiple campaign databases on Department of Education servers and ordered his staff to dissect a speech by his Democratic opponent for inaccuracies last fall.
“Below is a link to Glenda (Ritz)’s forum in Bloomington. It is 1:35 minutes. I would ask that people watch this and scrub it for every inaccuracy and utterance of stupidity that comes out of her mouth,” Bennett wrote to chief of staff Heather Neal in one email published in the article.
The practices are apparent violations of Indiana election and ethics laws, according to the Associated Press. Bennett denied instructing department staff to do his campaign work and insisted the database was to be used for making “thank you” calls after the November 2012 election.
The activity could violate Indiana’s ghost employment statute and result in criminal prosecution.
In July, the AP reported that Bennett last year altered the state’s A-F school grading system to benefit the grade of a Republican donor’s Indianapolis charter school.
Although the scandal brought about his resignation as the education commissioner in Florida, Bennett has denied the allegations. However, the revelation has spurred Republican Governor Mike Pence, GOP statehouse leaders, and Democrat State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz – the candidate who defeated Bennett in November – to begin rewriting the school assessment criteria.
On Tuesday, the Sunshine State News reported that the Associated Press was being fed Bennett’s Indiana emails by Ritz. Two employees speaking on the condition of anonymity told the newspaper that Ritz shared Bennett’s entire Outlook file containing six months of emails, four years of calendar items, and more to reporter Tom LoBianco.